Every year, Dylan and I spend 4 days around Christmas at a lodge in Wisconsin with his family. It is a festive event, annually including fireworks, games with the cousins, nightly nacho cheese and chips time, unlimited beers, and long winter walks.
This was a banner year for winter walks. Look at that snow! Drink in the majesty!
From inside the lodge.
We brought one cup of coffee, and then fought over it.
There seems to be a foot bridge up ahead.
There it is, as promised!
I’m on it! It made many alarming creaks and cracks as we crossed it.
Dylan’s snowy feet balancing precariously.
Taking in the view.
This happened on a different day, but I had to include a photo of our chestnuts – roasted over an open fire! We burned most of them, but for those willing to search, a few were truly delicious. How to do so here.
Dylan and I have just returned from an incredible trip to Finland. Our good friend Jessica recently finished her stunning documentary about a family of wild reindeer herders (the Aatsinkis) living in Lapland, and she invited us, along with two other friends, to join her on her most recent trip to screen the film for the family.
We spent four glorious days in Salla, Finland, which is about 2 hours north of the arctic circle. I am still dreaming of creamy reindeer soup, chopping wood with a dull hatchet, throwing water on the sauna coals, and endless games of spades.
After an overnight train from Helsinki (how I love overnight trains–there’s nothing like falling asleep to the sound and motion of a train) we finally cross the arctic circle.
The sauna, wood storage hut, and creepy falling-down building near our cabin. I’m off to collect some wood for a sauna fire.
Our cabin’s stove, which was nearly the size of the cabin itself, with a few antlers thrown in for good measure.
The road to our cabin – and if you stay on it for a few more kilometers, you’ll hit the Russian border!
There was much hiking. I loved the little wooden platforms laid out across the marshy areas.
Whoa, what’s a jCrew model doing, posing in the middle of Lapland? Oh wait, it’s just Dylan working his fall wardrobe.
In Lapland, fall color isn’t just seen in the trees, it’s also on the ground. In Finnish it’s called maaruska (maa means earth and ruska is their name for the autumn colors) (also, I lifted that straight from Jessica’s site, and her pictures of maaruska from 2011 are much more exuberant than mine.)
One of our hikes led us to a huge fenced-in area containing reindeer. It was like a deer park, except much much bigger, emptier, and nicer for the reindeer.
A reindeer and I having a heart-to-heart. Because it was a park, these reindeer are more comfortable with humans than those in the wild, which is why I could get so close. I actually touched his velvety antlers! It was a thrill. I was pretty sure I was going to be gored, but he didn’t seem to mind.
After a nice hike and a long sauna followed by a freezing cold dip in a lake, the Aatsinkis prepared us an incredible traditional feast. We sat in this little hut on piles of reindeer skins. It was windy that night, as you can see.
This is the amazing firepit thing where our meal was cooked. Lasse here is making “pancakes” which were like delicious crepes, into which we spooned reindeer salad. He put the batter on a pan which swung in and out of the fire as needed. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but all around the fire there are boards with salmon attached with wooden pegs, which sat there smoking for hours. In the corner of the fireplace is a cast iron kettle, which provided us with hot coffee after the meal was over. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
More photos from our weekend at Ann’s house!
Without any lighter fluid to get the charcoal going in the grill, Dylan decides to attempt to cook our dinner over the brasier. After much tending and fussing with the flames…
The chicken goes on…
and grills up with greatest success! Dylan was inordinately proud of his cooking vessel switch-a-roo.
Berries and cream before bed.
Canoeing down a little river to Ossipee Lake
We pulled over onto a little sandbar for a picnic.
It took all of my willpower not to enhance this crazy rainbow sunburst in photoshop – this is what we saw in all its un-enhanced glory!
Dylan and I spent this past weekend at Ann’s house in New Hampshire, Ann being Dylan’s second cousin, and her house being the location of our wedding last summer. It was so wonderful to go back there, I don’t think there is a more peaceful place on the planet.
The stately front door
I got real close to a butterfly.
A displaced gravestone in the small family cemetery on Ann’s property.
Dylan learns to chainsaw! What a guy.
I’m hauling away sticks on the tractor, in a funny hat.
What could be more charming than a basket of flowers?
I’m making little bouquets to put around the house. Bunches of these lilacs came home with us, on a 5 hour car ride, a train ride, and two subways.
Dusk and a little mountain.
Dusk engulfs the barn and outhouse.
One of the highlights of our trip was the chance to see the incredible Bảo tàng Động vật, a little-known French-Colonial era zoological museum in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The museum consists of three rooms – Mammals, Reptiles and Fish, and Birds. While all of the rooms were bursting with charm, the bird room boasted recently installed lights in the antique display cases – the lights were a harsh white shade, yet despite that harshness, they were also quite dim. The resulting photos of eyeless birds and lifeless skin studies in this odd light have a slightly eerie tone that I love.
Before we left for Asia, everyone who had been to Vietnam told us to go to Halong Bay. They all said the same thing: it’s really touristy, and totally worth it. They were all right. Halong Bay is an magestic landscape of limestone rock formations jutting out of a moss green sea. It is also chock full of “junks” – 15th(?) century style boats, each one housing a tour group. That said, there are long stretches on the water where no other vessel is in sight, and in those moments, the landscape’s mysterious and lonely quality are stunning.
We actually quite loved our tour. It was fun sleeping in our own wooden room on the junk, and kayaking among the towering formations was a highlight of our entire trip so far. On the second day we biked and hiked through Cat Ba National Park, a jungle-y tangle of plants and vines, and stopped at Monkey Island, where Dylan nearly lost his face to a monkey attack. So if you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, go to Halong Bay: It’s really touristy, and totally worth it.
Pulling out of the harbor with a mess of other junk boats.
We didn’t have the best weather, but the thick grey skies certainly added to the eeriness as formations emerged out of the fog.
A floating village, of which there were many dotted throughout the bay.
This woman seemed to be scooping water into her boat, maybe keeping the day’s catch wet?
The dock to the beach where we had lunch.
Dylan takes in the view as we chug along.
A spider in Cat Ba National Park – just about the size of a grown man’s hand.
Dylan loves the hiking!
This photo was taken seconds before this outraged little monkey tried to attack Dylan. It leapt at his head, and as Dylan spun around to protect his precious face, the monkey sprung from his backpack into a nearby tree, and moments later, repeated the action. Dylan was so scared, he shrieked like a girl and pushed me into the monkey’s path, so I think it’s safe to assume that if this was a dominant male attack, Dylan’s response promptly ended it.
We never wanted to leave.
Another winter means another weekend at my pal Katie’s cabin in Vermont. Every year a carload or two of our friends drive 4.5 hours to spend a weekend sitting in front of the fire, going on short hikes, buying meat at Singleton’s, eating big family meals, playing board games, and shooting the bb gun.
Picture of Liam taking a picture
A dusting of snow
Liam and Dylan attempt to communicate across the great divide
Singleton’s – a grocery store whose walls are lined with taxidermy and rifles.
Singleton’s is our one stop shop for bacon and bb gun ammo.
Sausage, cheese, chex mix and martinis. What more could you ask for?
Becca is holding the rifle like a bazooka in this picture and that’s why I love it.
Thanksgiving at my mom’s house in Bath, ME is much like any other – lots of eating, lots of Christmas movies, lots of naps. But for the past few years Dylan and I have been trying to make time to get out and do a little exploring of Maine.
This year we took a long winter walk around the grounds and woods of Hyde, a beautiful brick boarding school, and the next day we drove down to South Bristol to Christmas Cove (see Dylan’s film).
A low mist on the grounds of Hyde.
What a winter sunset in Bath
More winter sunset (there are about 50 pictures of this sunset, I really had to hold back from posting them all)
Dylan at Christmas Cove in South Bristol
Miss Ashley’s on the Wharf in South Bristol makes the best $2.50 grilled cheese you ever had.
Looking in the window of a closed antique shop, the South Bristol swing bridge (one of only three in Maine) in the background.
Heh. Master Baiter. Heh heh.
The traditional turkey soup made from turkey leftovers, and a Thunder Hole Ale to wash it down.
Fangs of Maine from Dylan D. Thuras on Vimeo.
Finally back in Brooklyn from a restorative Thanksgiving in Maine, at which my uncle gave Dylan some old Konica lenses that he never used. Dylan and I took a drive out to Christmas Cove in South Bristol, and Dylan played with his lenses while I played around the ocean. He turned his footage into a cliched indy video for fun – here’s what he says about it:
“This is a little indy style music video I put together from footage I took while on Thanksgiving vacation in Maine. It manages to incorporate nearly every cliche of indy music videos: overexposure, slow motion, shots of nature, squiggly font, mismatched audio / video, soft focus, etc. But I still like it.”
Last week Dylan and I made a trip to San Francisco and LA. I love San Francisco and remain undecided about LA, but by far the highlight of the trip was the beautiful stretch of highway between the two. It was a last minute decision to rent a car and do the famous PCH ourselves, and I’m so so glad we did. Because the drive was sandwiched between two work meetings in either city, we had to rush through – but we’re already planning to go again.
Taking in the scenery
The first redwoods I’ve ever seen! In Pfeiffer State Park
We stopped in at the Big Sur Lodge after our redwood forest hike to get a smashed penny for my ever-expanding collection.
Sunset near San Simeon
We managed to make time for the Hearst Castle – this was Hearst’s study.
The amazing indoor Roman Pool at Hearst Castle.
Elephant Seal Rookery!
Look at all those lazy seals!
A stop for lunch in Los Alamos.